By Jaya Ramachandran
VIENNA (IDN) – The International Day against Nuclear Tests (IDANT) 2020 was a rallying point for calls around the globe for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to be brought into force, featuring a high-level plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly and a prestigious panel discussion at the European Forum Alpbach. [2020–08-31]
In a statement for IDANT, which is marked annually on August 29, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged all states that have not yet signed or ratified the CTBT to do so without further delay.
"The nuclear menace is once again on the rise. A complete ban on nuclear testing is an essential step in preventing the qualitative and quantitative improvement of nuclear weapons and in achieving nuclear disarmamen," UN Secretary-General
António Guterres noted.
“The best way to honor the victims of nuclear tests is to prevent any in the future," he said. “Nuclear testing is a relic of another age and should have no place in the 21st century.”
In New York, other high-level speakers at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) plenary, held virtually on August 26 and chaired by UNGA President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, echoed the call to end nuclear testing.
Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, stressed the impact of historical nuclear testing on the environment, health and economic development and the importance of the moratorium on nuclear testing. “In this fraught geostrategic environment, we need to re-double our efforts to uphold the norm against nuclear testing,” she told the UNGA.
Delivering a statement on behalf of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi said more persistent efforts should be made to persuade states to sign and ratify the CTBT without any condition.
Speaking at both the UNGA plenary and the online European Forum Alpbach, former Finnish President Tarja Halonen, a member of the CTBTO Group of Eminent Persons (GEM), stressed the crucial importance of a permanent end to nuclear testing as key step towards the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
"Entry into force of the CTBT is an attainable victory for the international community that is hiding in plain sight," Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen said.
Ratifying the CTBT is not only a way to reduce the risk of a nuclear arms race, but gives states “an opening to build trust through scientific cooperation and sharing,” Halonen said during the virtual Alpbach panel on ‘Championing a Nuclear Test Free World', held on August 29.
On the same panel, Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum emphasized the importance of the CTBT for international peace. He welcomed “remarkable progress” on building the Treaty’s verification system, and called on all remaining states to sign and ratify the CTBT so that it can enter into force and become legal binding worldwide.
The CTBT is a key element for the preservation of international peace and security, said Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum.
Although 184 countries have signed the CTBT and 168 have also ratified it, 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before it can enter into force. Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA.
CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo also spoke at both events. Noting that next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the opening for signature of the CTBT, he stressed to the UNGA the achievements of the Treaty's International Monitoring System in providing credible assurances that no nuclear explosion will go undetected.
Continuing this theme at the European Forum Alpbach, he said: “One indispensable step to advance a nuclear weapons free world is a ban on nuclear testing, which would be followed by everyone around the world. Entry into force and universalization of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) would achieve that in a verifiable, neutral and independent manner.”
"For this year’s International Day against Nuclear Tests, let us all commit to sparing no effort to strengthen the global non-testing norm and redouble our efforts to finally close the door on nuclear testing by bringing the CTBT into force. By doing so, we will both reinforce multilateralism as the ultimate means to address global challenges, and take a giant step forward on the path to a nuclear weapons free world," CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo stressed.
The Alpbach discussion also featured a youth panel featuring three CTBTO Youth Group (CYG) members: Sarah Bidgood, Director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey; Sahil Shah, Policy Fellow, European Leadership Network; and Natalia Zhurina, Research and Education Officer at the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL).
Participants in this discussion, moderated by CTBTO Policy and Strategy Officer Francesca Giovannini, emphasized the importance of intergenerational dialogue to achieve progress in the non-proliferation regime and the CTBT.
Marking IDANT, the CTBTO and the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) released a joint statement appealing for a renewed commitment to strengthening the global non-testing norm and urging all states to sign and ratify the Treaty. The two international organizations committed themselves to boosting mutual ties and fostering synergies in their activities, particularly in training and capacity development.
IDANT is officially marked around the world with events to remember the devastating consequences of nuclear tests and express support for the CTBT as a key pillar of the international non-proliferation and disarmament framework.
Established in 2009 by the General Assembly, through a resolution initiated by Kazakhstan, it commemorates both the anniversary of Kazakhstan’s closure of the former Soviet Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1991, and the date the first Soviet nuclear test was conducted there in 1949. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 August 2020]
Image credit: CTBTO
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